Medicare for All Scares Me More Than Coronavirus

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The world today is dealing with an unknown -- a virus currently without a treatment or vaccine, and, like most Americans, I’m praying one will be found. But what scares me most in this moment of crisis isn’t the coronavirus; it’s the push for “Medicare for All” as a solution that can harm millions, including my children.

 The Democratic debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier this month illustrates the current campaign to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis to establish government-run health care.

Naturally, Sanders weighed in with his favorite talking point: "First of all, the dysfunctionality of the current health care system is obviously apparent,” arguing that we spend too much for what we get. "What the experts tell us is that one of the reasons we're unprepared is we don't have a system. We have thousands of private health insurance plans. That's not a system that is prepared to provide health care to all people."

But saying there will be better coverage doesn’t make it so, as the former vice president noted. "It is not working in Italy right now, and they have a single-payer system," Biden countered. “It has nothing to do with Bernie’s Medicare for All.”

Right now, patients in China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom are dealing with rationed care, some being turned away. The “wonders” of government-run health care aren’t being offered to everyone. And that’s not even a new trend

 “Free” and “available” are not the same things, and it’s not truly free, as taxpayers will get the bill, though not necessarily any health care. Just as important, you can’t make a cure available that doesn’t yet exist. But with government-run health care, nations do decide who they won’t bother saving. 

In talking about this crisis with the Washington Post, medical experts said that rationed care was likely here in a piece titled “Spiking U.S. coronavirus cases could force rationing decisions similar to those made in Italy, China.” 

“We have very effective means of making that a comfortable, peaceful death,” said Philip M. Rosoff, professor emeritus of at Duke University School of Medicine and chair of its hospital ethics committee from 2005 to 2019. 

Well, isn’t that special. And it’s happening now. 

Under government-run health care, all of us may find ourselves at the mercy of an Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) up-or-down vote on whether we should be allowed to live or die. This calculation is already in use by economists who make a financial calculation of whether someone’s life is worth saving. 

The formula is known as QALY -- Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY). The Wall Street Journal explains it this way: “It puts a dollar figure on a year of healthy life, calculates how much health a drug restores to a sick patient, then prices drugs accordingly … it works like this: One year spent in perfect health equals one QALY. A year with some kind of health problem that affects quality of life would be worth less than one QALY. How much less depends on the severity of the problem.” 

In a moment like this, with a virus that causes respiratory distress, my two children who have cystic fibrosis may be determined too costly to save. Before the virus hit, a recent ICER report determined that the cost of life-extending medication for CF sufferers wasn’t worth it, even if it was a full cure.

That’s why Medicare for All is so scary. The known practices of withholding care in government-run plans has the potential to put all Americans at risk, no matter the illness. Just this week, the National Council on Disability asked  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take proactive steps so that care will not be denied to those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. 

In recent days, I’ve been heartened to see so many Americans make sacrifices to ensure those who are most at risk with coronavirus stay safe. My prayer is that more continue to use social distancing precautions and take all safety measures necessary. And we all hope that the testing proceeding now will be successful.

Shouldn’t this mindset continue after the corona pandemic ends? If Medicare for All is allowed to proceed, treatments won’t be for all, but only the few that the government determines have potential value, as they see it. This crisis must not become political cover for those pushing government-run health care on the nation. Our lives truly are at stake.  

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America, which has more than 1,200 chapters on college and high school campuses in all 50 states. Follow her @KristanHawkins or subscribe to her podcast, “Explicitly Pro-Life.” 

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